Why Do Christians Follow Some Biblical Commands and Not Others? (Video)

Brett explains how some commands in the Bible were for a specific group of people at a specific time in history.


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A high schooler has asked how he should explain to his friends why Christians obey some commands in the Bible and don't obey other commands. Let's unpack this a little bit so that we can answer this for our friends who are wondering. 

Number one, we need to make a distinction between the moral values and moral principles that Scripture affirms and the specific moral rules or commands. For instance, there are plenty of rules and laws today that I don't obey that other people do obey, namely, the laws of another land. In the United States, I'm supposed to drive on the right side of the road. I don't drive on the left side of the road. But if I were in Great Britain, I'd be driving on the left side of the road.  There's a different rule, and I'm not obligated to obey that rule. I've got my rule, but the same moral principle is undergirding both. The value is the protection of innocent life, and that's why we have these laws about what side of the road you're supposed to drive on. They get expressed differently in different contexts. That’s key. 

Not every rule is given to me, and not every rule in the Bible is given to Christians. In the Old Testament, we have rules that are given to the nation of Israel that are for the nation of Israel in that particular context and that particular time that don't apply to us. There may be similar moral principles or moral values that undergird those. So, we'd say that those moral values are universal, but we wouldn't say that the expression of each value of the particular law in the particular context is something that we're all obligated to. You just have to think through these carefully.

Here's another instance where we need to look at the context: The example is mentioned about women in the New Testament covering their heads. Again, we look at the context within the context. In first-century Judaism, covering the head was a sign of submission. As we look at what Paul says in 1st Corinthians about women covering their head, we realize it's not just this rule saying to cover your head, women, period. No, there's a value underneath. It's the idea of being submissive to the leadership of one's husband. That's not expressed today in women covering their head. The principle is still there, but the expression – how that rule plays out – is different. That's why Christians don't just carefully pick and choose whatever they want. No. We look at these things in their context, and that helps us to inform what we need to follow today and what values and moral laws are for us today.

Brett Kunkle (@brettkunkle) is the founder and president of MAVEN, a movement to equip the next generation to know truth, pursue goodness, and create beauty. He has more than 25 years of experience working with youth and parents. Brett has a master’s degree in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology and co-authored the book A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Brett Kunkle